This week, your Instagram feed may be filled with more monochrome photos of celebrity women than usual as part of the "Women Supporting Women" viral trend. Using the hashtags #challengeaccepted, #womensupportingwomen, and #blackandwhitechallenge, women are 'gramming black-and-white photos of themselves. After posting, they then nominate other women in their lives to continue the challenge. Ahead, we've answered all your questions about the trend—including what, exactly, it means for female empowerment.
What is the Women Supporting Women Instagram challenge?
The trend itself involves women, mainly celebrities and influencers at the beginning, posting black-and-white photos of themselves. Some are barefaced selfies (see Naomi Watts, Demi Lovato, and Kaley Cuoco). Others are more glamorous photo shoot pictures (see Natalie Portman, Cindy Crawford, and Gal Gadot). Kerry Washington and Eva Longoria have notably made oversized hats a part of their participation.
When posting the photo, people have been using one of the following hashtags: #challengeaccepted, #womensupportingwomen, or #blackandwhitechallenge. Then, they shout out the woman who nominated them to participate, share a message of female empowerment, and nominate other people either in the caption or via DM. According to the New York Times, more than 3 million people had used #challengeaccepted on their posts so far.
How did it start?
It's been difficult to pinpoint exactly how the trend began. A representative for Instagram told the Times that the first post to emerge from the current spike in #challengeaccepted was a post by Brazilian journalist Ana Paula Padrão more than a week ago.
Other iterations of this challenge have existed before, as the Times' Taylor Lorenz points out in her piece. Most notably, another black-and-white photo challenge was used to raise cancer awareness in 2016. Cristine Abram, a public relations and influencer marketing manager, connected the current trend to U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Last week, she took to the floor of Congress with a powerful response after Rep. Ted Yoho called her a "fucking bitch." Abram told the Times that since then, there's been a general uptick in social media posts with feminist themes.
But Times travel reporter Tariro Mzezewa offered another explanation for the challenge on Twitter today. She began a thread of tweets, writing, "#ChallengeAccepted was making zero sense to me and I wasn’t buying that it was just for vanity’s sake. Talked to some women in Turkey this AM who say it started there as a response to them being frustrated over always seeing black and white photos of women who have been killed." She added that the original Turkish hashtags referencing domestic violence and femicide were dropped as the challenge gained steam. You can find those hashtags and more context about the trend here:
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The original accompanying hashtags were #kad?na?iddetehay?r#istanbulsözle?mesiya?at?r which I’m told translate to say no to violence against women &— Tariro Mzezewa (@tariro) July 28, 2020
enforce the Istanbul Treaty/ Doctrine (where rights to protect women are signed.)
One celebrity to seemingly investigate the origins of the trend is Florence Pugh, who wrote on Instagram, "I’ve been told that the true meaning of this hashtag and this b&w photo-
‘It is to shed light onto the Istanbul Convention, women are being subjected to violence and this convention is to end forgiveness for the attacker/murderers.’ With that in mind, adjust your hashtags if you didn’t already do so."
Why has the challenge become controversial?
Prior to Mzezewa's Twitter thread, many questioned what was being accomplished with the #ChallengeAccepted trend. How was posting flattering black-and-white photos a way to support women or inspire female empowerment? A piece on The Cut compared the trend to other challenges in which all that was required of participants was posting an attractive photo (i.e. the pillow challenge and the 2009 vs. 2019 challenge).
Lorenz, who penned the Times piece about the trend, has also received backlash for being critical of it. She shared a few screenshots on Twitter where she had been called out by other women for her critique. "The amount of vitriol I’m getting from the black and white selfie crowd is out of this world. It’s not that deep!" Lorenz wrote on Twitter, adding, "The dumb black and white challenge accepted thing is IG chain mail that’s been around since 2016."
By: Kate Morales